The Partisan Fog: Americans Have No Idea Who's Running Congress

Photograph by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

You read that right.

The Monmouth University Polling Institute released a national poll today showing that 76 percent of Americans aren’t at all happy with the job Congress is doing this year. That’s no surprise. We’ve been hearing that Americans think more highly of head lice, colonoscopies, and root canals than they do of Capitol Hill for a good eight months now. More surprising in the new survey is that most Americans don’t seem to realize that power is split between the House and Senate right now—and they have no idea who’s in charge.

Here are the depressing numbers:

49 percent know that Republicans control the House; 17 percent think Democrats run the House; 31 percent couldn’t tell pollsters who’s in power

45 percent are aware that Democrats control the Senate; 23 percent think the GOP’s in charge there; 30 percent weren’t sure

• “Taken together,” Monmouth concludes, “35 percent of Americans can accurately name the parties that control both chambers of Congress.”

The pollsters talked to 1,012 people in late July. That means nobody was factoring the Syria debacle into their answers, and most people probably weren’t thinking ahead to the big fights coming this fall over the budget sequester and the debt ceiling—fights that’ll likely worsen Congress’s reputation even further. Partisanship is the problem in all of these recurring issues. Yet this poll seems to show that voters don’t fully grasp that partisanship is the source of the gridlock.

Which, if you think about it for a minute, sounds like a good reason to end the politicking just for the sake of politicking and do something together.

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